Invisalign is an increasingly popular treatment for crooked teeth. Its ability to fly under the radar makes self-conscious patients feel better about their smiles while they’re getting them straightened. They also allow patients to undergo treatment without any major changes to their diets or lifestyles, and yet are able to treat many of the same issues that braces do. If you’re considering Invisalign as a way to improve your smile and correct any potential issues that a misaligned bite can cause, you likely have a lot of questions. Here are the answers to some of the most common questions we get asked about Invisalign.

1. How does it work?

Invisalign is actually a series of several aligners that are custom-made for your mouth from a clear thermoplastic material. Dr. Sadeghi will use digital technology to plan out how she wants your teeth to move in your mouth. The aligners are then made to fit this plan, ensuring that your teeth move where they’re meant to in the prescribed amount of time. You will carefully follow this timetable, switching to a new aligner every few weeks.

Although the aligners are removable, you need to wear them for at least 22 hours each day to get the best treatment. Ideally, though, they should be in your mouth for as close to 24 hours as possible. Only take them out for brief periods of time, such as for meals or cleanings. You will need to see your dentist every four to six weeks to make sure your teeth are moving as expected, but since you switch aligners at home, Dr. Sadeghi will not have to do any adjustments.

2. What are the main benefits of Invisalign compared to traditional braces?

The best-known advantage of Invisalign is that the aligners are nearly invisible, meaning very few people will even notice you’re wearing them. Invisalign is also removable, so you don’t have to avoid any foods; simply pop out the aligners before you eat. The smooth plastic of the aligners also doesn’t irritate or scratch the inside of your mouth the way the metal wires and brackets of traditional braces might, and you won’t have to wear a specialized mouth guard for certain sports to protect the inside of your mouth. Instead, you’ll only need a standard mouth guard for contact sports.

3. Is Invisalign an option for me?

If you’re considering Invisalign, it’s important to meet with Dr. Sadeghi to determine whether or not you’re a good candidate for the treatment. Invisalign can treat almost everything that traditional braces can, but it does have its limits. The aligners can’t fix more severe dental problems, like severe overbites or underbites; these issues may require traditional braces. If you have TMJ, Invisalign can improve your condition, have no effect, or even worsen it. This all depends upon your individual case, so it’s incredibly important for you to consult with Dr. Sadeghi about whether the treatment is right for you.

4. How long does the treatment take?

The length of the treatment depends upon a number of factors in each individual case, including what issues are being fixed, how severe those issues are, and how closely you follow the treatment plan. Most patients, however, can expect to complete treatment in nine months to two years.

5. Will the aligners be painful?

When you first change to a new aligner, you may notice some discomfort. This can be anything from a little bit of pressure to a mild ache, which can be eased with over-the-counter pain medications if necessary. This is very comparable to the discomfort that many patients report after their orthodontist has adjusted their traditional braces. The discomfort should pass quickly as your teeth adjust to the new aligner.

Some patients also report that their teeth sometimes feel a little loose right after they remove their aligners. In most cases, this isn’t a cause for concern. Since Invisalign is causing your teeth to shift in your mouth, your gums also have to shift to fit snugly against your teeth again. This is what causes the loose sensation. Although it’s usually normal, if this or any other sensation concerns you, you should bring it up with Dr. Sadeghi.

6. Will Invisalign cause me to slur or lisp?

When you get your first aligner, there might be a short adjustment period where your tongue has to adapt to the presence of the aligners’ slick plastic. You might lisp or slur your words slightly at first, but you’ll adapt quickly, and your speech will return to normal.

7. Can my aligners stain?

Your aligners can become stained, making them more visible in your mouth. This can happen if you eat without removing your aligners or if you replace your aligner after eating without brushing your teeth first. Food residue on your teeth can stain the plastic material. To keep this from happening, you should never chew gum or eat with your aligners in your mouth, even if it’s a small snack, and you should brush your teeth after every meal.

8. How do I clean the aligners?

Cleaning your aligners is really simple. You can use the official Invisalign Cleaning System, or you can simply brush them with a toothbrush and toothpaste in lukewarm water. Never use hot water on your aligners, as it can warp the plastic. If warping happens, contact your dentist immediately to see if you can go ahead and use the next aligner or if you need to wear the last set until you can receive a replacement.

9. Will insurance cover Invisalign?

How much your insurance covers will depend upon your insurance carrier and individual plan. Depending on your case, Invisalign can cost anywhere from $3,000 to $7,000 before insurance helps out. For comparison, traditional braces usually cost between $2,000 and $6,000 before insurance. Many insurance companies cover a percentage or a set dollar amount for orthodontic treatments, no matter which treatment you choose. This often means that Invisalign ends up costing more out of pocket. Regardless of your plan, a portion of Invisalign should be covered, and you can set up a payment plan to help you pay for what isn’t covered.

10. Will I need retainers?

You’ll need to wear retainers no matter what orthodontic treatment you choose. The specifics of how long and how often you’ll have to wear retainers will be up to your dentist and individualized to your care. In general, retainers are worn constantly for six months after your Invisalign treatment is complete and nightly for the rest of your life, although some patients are eventually advised to wear them between three and five nights a week. While no one likes to hear that retainers are here to stay, they’re an essential part of making sure that your teeth stay straight. Without them, most people’s teeth tend to drift back to where they were before. The retainers provide a solid barrier, keeping your teeth from shifting. So if you want the beautiful results from Invisalign to last a lifetime, you’ll probably need to stick with a retainer for a lifetime, too.

Invisalign may not be right for everyone because of their cost and the limited severity of misalignments they treat. If it does fit your budget and your treatment needs, however, Invisalign can be a great way to achieve straight teeth without making huge dietary or lifestyle changes or losing confidence in your smile.